U Perform Ambassador Ben Fletcher Judo Olympian

Ben Fletcher OLY - Preparing for Tokyo 2021 in a global pandemic

2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and especially so for athletes and active people alike. For our team of sponsored athletes, our ‘Team Tokyo’ - the biggest challenge has of course been adapting to the unfortunate but necessary postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

This week, we checked in with our good friend, Irish International Judo athlete, Ben Fletcher to find out a little bit more about his sport and how he and his fellow competitors have coped during this challenging period.

Ben wrote this for us to share with you:


For the uninitiated, Judo is a very hands on sport. It’s a Japanese sport which originated from Jiu Jitsu. But in the present day it includes and has been influenced by a number of different forms of wrestling from across the world, making it a truly global sport. I love it and have loved it ever since I started doing it age 5.
However the physical and close nature of judo is in the time of COVID-19, our sports biggest problem. For the sports that have gone back to normal competition I believe they have been able to go back as there is plenty of money to test and also the leagues and tournaments can keep on top of the virus as they are dealing with relatively small amounts of people needing testing. And of those people they are all living in the same country with the same regulations.
The problem for high level judo is, we only compete internationally and that’s where a large part of the problem lies. All of the tournaments for me and most judo athletes, are part of the International Judo Federations world tour. An arduous 12 month long tour of competitions in every part of the world you can imagine. And because of the nature of judo and also the numbers of competitors in a competition (usually 40+per category in 14 different weight categories). It just makes judo competitions really difficult at the moment. I can’t think of any country in their right mind welcoming 500+ people from 100s of nations around the world to come and compete in their country. Would you welcome that? I don’t think so.
And I believe that until the COVID-19 situation is under control it doesn’t make sense to have any tournaments as it’s not safe for the athletes, coaches and staff and also the local people of the nation where the competition is being held.
And that is where you find me at the moment. Attempting to try and train the best I can and as normally as possible. However I fear both training and competition unfortunately won’t be back to normal for some time yet. Which you can imagine is quite disconcerting. But for me I just have to aim as if the tournaments start back sometime soon and that the Olympic games Tokyo 2021 are going to go ahead and I have to just do what I can every day to do my best for now.
I don’t want to come across in a negative way but the facts are that COVID-19 have been hugely disruptive for athletes and sports to deal with. The Olympic Games have been pushed back a year, the qualification in which was nearing the end has now been reopened, and yet we still have no idea when we will be able to compete, qualify or train as we had before.
But I also have to say, what else are we supposed to do. We are in a global pandemic and for me sport should take a back seat until life resumes as normal, or we find a new normal in order to continue with the sports and lives we love to live.
For me myself it was really difficult at the start of all this and speaking to other athletes, it’s the uncertainty which kills us. But it’s up to us to use this time as positively as we can and I for one have loved having the extra time at home and with my girlfriend and being able to see my family and friends more than I would have been able too before.
But I hope in the not too distant future this will all be but a lesson to be learned and we will move forth glad for the fresh perspective that the COVID-19 situation has granted us.
Well I hope so anyway!
Everyone here at U Perform are behind you Ben, every step of the way. We are proud to be supporting your Olympic journey, especially so during this difficult time.